Artists exchange ideas and pencils during a poetry-printmaking workshop at One Crow Studio.
Poetry and art meld at Brussel’s One Crow Studio
Full moon in Scorpio
Such beauty! Stay indoors
away from open windows.
Stars stagger home at dawn drunk
with lilac on their breath.
A group of about twenty artist-poets has been meeting twice a month since last December. Their goal is to produce a hand-bound book of prints and accompanying short poems. They meet at Geraldine Brussel’s One Crow Studio in the Bernalillo bosque. New Mexico artists know Geraldine as a great artistic resource, well-known for her wood block prints and public classes, and for her eclectic style inspired by her practice of Tibetan Buddhism. One Crow Studio is well-equipped with carving tools, inks, and paper and provides a peaceful space for creating art. Several artists in session agreed that the collaborative effort has been a learning experience for all involved.
The project is the idea of Dale Harris, artist/poet and president of LIBROS—New Mexico’s Book Art Guild which offers a variety of inspiration for both traditional and experimental artist’s books. Several of the participants in the project are members of LIBROS (librosnm.org). Some are skilled printmakers and poets; others are novices including several nurses, college professors, and an actor/director from the Adobe Theater.
The prints for the book are created by an ancient printing technique—originating in China but used throughout the world—of carving images into blocks of wood. The part of the block that is cut away prints as white space, while the remaining surface provides the image when the block is rolled with ink and pressed onto paper or cloth. The image can be reproduced countless times, but the copies are usually limited and numbered.
The accompanying poems are the artists’ own or favorites written by others. They are not part of the print itself, but are intended to be used in harmony with the image. Some of the artists are also skilled in calligraphy. Those new to writing poetry have the option of being matched with poets in the group who serve as mentors. The free-verse poems are generally similar to Japanese forms of Haiku or Tanka and run three to five lines—Haiku poetry expresses and creates awareness of the moment in everyday life.
The book itself will be Japanese stab bound with covers made of the wood blocks that were used in the printing. “The prints within will probably be arranged in a concertina accordion style,” said Harris.
The participants come and go during the workshops. During my recent visit to the studio, some seemed more focused than others, but all worked in a relaxed atmosphere of camaraderie accentuated by a potluck lunch of pie and tea.
Geraldine Brussel is also a prolific fine art painter, but, when asked about the difference between painting and printmaking, she said, “I find painting kind of hectic sometimes and carving is very calming; the wood is like butter.”
Group member Frank Melcori said that the project is not a commercial venture. “How can you go wrong taking a day to create art.”
The project was originally scheduled to be completed this December, but the books will probably not be finished until March of 2011. They will make four copies of the collaborative works and each artist will make a book of his own.
The book entitled Book of Seasons will be displayed at the Weirich Gallery in Albuquerque (weirichgallery.com) during June, 2011. Individual prints will be offered for sale at that time.
To find out more about upcoming projects and classes at One Crow Studio, you may call Geraldine Brussel at 867-4691.